Wes Foster grew up in the small town of McDonough Georgia, attended VMI University and entered the Washington real estate scene in the 1960’s. During the 60’s, real estate was a white male dominated industry and discriminatory practices were commonplace.
Wes rejected these practices and broke the mold by embracing diversity. By putting people first, regardless of who they were or where they were from, Wes grew Long and Foster into the country’s largest privately held real estate brokerage.
Wes was among the first brokers to hire agents and managers that were discriminated against by other firms. He hired people regardless of their sex, color, religion or race.
When I joined Long and Foster in 1995, I distinctly remember how impressed I was with the number of incredibly talented women in key leadership positions. Marj Rosner, my manager, chose to work for Wes because he helped women build careers in real estate. He was doing this even during the times when women could not get loans to buy a home.
One of Wes’ strengths was spotting great potential. If someone had character, integrity and drive, then Wes wanted them onboard. Once hired, he was known for taking care of his people. He often said “take care of people first and the profits will come”.
I remember being stuck in traffic at the intersection of Whittier and River Road and receiving an incoming call from Long and Foster HQ. It was Wes calling me. He had just heard me on WTOP radio and wanted to say thank you for everything I was doing and how proud he was that I was part of Long and Foster. It was a short call but the impact was big. He made me feel important and it was the highlight of my day.
Long and Foster is a huge company with over 8,000 agents, yet he took the time to call me. Many of my colleagues have told me similar stories.
If we can take a page from Wes Foster’s leadership style it would be, put people first and let them know how valued they are. It’s amazing the impact it will have on them and how it will become part of your leadership legacy as well.